Straight Line Photos

My favorite photo utility on my phone is SKRWT, which I think is meant to be pronounced as “square it” but reads to me like “screw it.” However it’s pronounced, it allows me to “correct” (or “distort,” depending on how you think about it) photos I take so that all the straight lines in a shot actually appear straight, or very close to it. This overlong video shows how it’s used; you’ll get the idea after thirty seconds or so.

The app includes controls for manipulation of your photo’s rotation, perspective and lens distortion. The adjustments must be done manually, which I don’t mind too much. The effect is inherently artificial, so making the decisions as to how much to tweak on a case by case basis feels more like genuine artistry than just having it done for you automatically (though it would be nice to be able to save my own presets). Aesthetically, the results you can achieve are particularly effective for shooting architecture, but it’s also very much the look that I favor in photography—when everything’s on a straight line, I’m happy.

Here’s one example; a shot I took on the street in San Francisco recently from ground level, holding my phone as level and upright as I could.

Fire Station Before SKRWT

Here’s the same shot after just a few quick edits with SKRWT and some light color correction.

Fire Station After SKRWT

The results are not perfect, of course—the changes I made show an exaggerated distortion. That’s one of the inherent drawbacks of trying to get precise results while editing on a phone screen. But given a little more time and care, SKRWT absolutely lets you get better results than this.

Unfortunately, SKRWT hasn’t had a meaningful update in quite some time; it was released two years ago and was last updated in the App Store last November. It’s also broken on the iPad; the UI gets scrambled on that device, which is unfortunate because the greater screen real estate would lend itself nicely to these kinds of edits. Still, I find that it’s worth the relatively paltry US$1.99 price tag, though in an ideal world, this kind of functionality would be built right into Apple’s or Google’s own photo apps.